As the leader of a small business, you’re bent on driving growth. You are willing to put in the work that’s needed to achieve that, but paradoxically, working too hard could create unexpected obstacles to your business growth.
If you’re working hard and putting in long hours but your business has hit a plateau, it’s possible that your hard work is the problem.
Here are some of the ways that working too hard could be holding your business back from realizing its growth potential.
Working Too Hard Stops You from Delegating Effectively
When you work too hard, you end up micromanaging your own employees. This undermines their dedication to the business and sends a silent message that you don’t trust them to meet your expectations. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, generating resentment and an unhealthy work atmosphere.
“As a CEO and Entrepreneur, your success will directly correlate to how well you can assemble the best team and then bring out the best in those people,” notes Mark Moses, the CEO of CEO Coaching International. “Micromanagers should never be CEOs of large or growing companies. This is because they are simply too complex to micromanage. Being involved at every level and not delegating to your team creates a bottleneck that essentially strangles an organization.”
Indeed, in order for your business to really scale, you need talented employees who are experts in their areas of specialty. If you’re working too hard, you are probably carrying out tasks which don’t draw on your real strengths. When you hire experts, they can carry out the work in less time, thanks to their training and experience, and you can free yourself up to focus on those strategic tasks which no one else can do.
Working Too Hard Stops You From Building Scalable Business Systems
No matter how hard you work, there is a limit to what a single person can achieve. For a business to scale successfully, it needs to be based on smart systems that can expand beyond your own capabilities. When you focus on completing task after task at all costs, instead of building a scalable business process that will do it for you, you’re stunting your business growth.
“Yes, your talents and skills were the reason that it was able to get up and running, but they will not be the tools that allow it to reach future success,” says Ken Marshall, founder of Doorbell Digital Marketing. “Now don’t get me wrong, working hard and getting things done is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, when your company is in its infancy, you’re going to be doing most of the work. But at some point you’re going to have to figure out ways to remove yourself from all of the repetitive or non essential tasks, take a step back, and look at where the ship is headed.”
Working too hard can create an overdependence on you. If your employees are constantly interrupting you to ask for decisions that they should be capable of reaching on their own, it prevents you from focusing on your more important core responsibilities, and holds them back from potential growth in their own roles.
Working Too Hard Prevents You from Thinking Creatively
For your business to scale, you need to feel passionate about it. But when you work too hard, your drive and passion get drowned out by petty tasks that should be delegated to someone else.
You could end up focusing too narrowly on the minutiae of the business, making it difficult to see the big picture and create an effective business strategy. At the same time, rushing so fast from one task to the next prevents you from focusing fully on any one aspect of the business, which will also prevent you from maintaining perspective with a holistic growth plan.
A study by Stanford University designed to measure cognitive load found that people who were told to remember a seven-digit number made far poorer decisions than those told to remember a single-digit number. When you’re stressed out by your unreasonably large workload, it hampers your ability to think creatively. It maxes out your cognitive load with minor issues, leaving you with no capacity to make difficult business decisions or react to important growth opportunities.
How to Avoid Being a Bottleneck at your Own Company
Changing the habit of working too hard is easier said than done. Simply working less isn’t a viable solution. There’s a good chance that vital business processes grew up around your habit of overwork; if you suddenly reduce the amount of work you’re doing, you could cause the whole business to fall apart.
An important first step is to reflect on what is causing you to work too hard. Identifying the cause could give you the insight you need to change your work habits.
Sometimes, CEOs end up working too hard because there isn’t enough money to hire more employees. If this is the case, then the solution is simple – get out there and find a way to add an employee or two. A business loan could give you the working capital you need to make some new hires.
Often, the habit of working too hard springs up because you are the one who established all the key business processes. You never transmitted them to others, so no one else knows what to do. By sharing core business processes, contacts and passwords with selected executives and employees, you can withdraw your personal involvement in every business issue.
Having trouble accepting that someone else can do a task as well as you can is especially common among CEOs who’ve nursed a company from its startup days. If you’ve always been the one to do this task, it’s easy to think that no one else can replace you. But no one is irreplaceable. Learning to step back a little and show some trust in your employees is the path to a better work atmosphere, as well as improved business growth.
Occasionally, CEOs overwork themselves simply out of ignorance that there is a better way. It’s not easy to pause the whirlwind, but investing time to develop more sustainable, growth-friendly business practices is a worthy investment.
Are You a Roadblock or a Catapult?
As the CEO, you could work hard in ways that hold the company back from reaching its full growth potential, or you could work smart in ways that make you the source of its success. Working too hard can creep up on you without you realizing.
With a little perspective, you can gain insight into the causes of your behavior, and learn how to change it to enable your business to scale successfully.